Genesis are one of those love-em-or-hate-em kinda bands. Kinda like Rush, except that with Genesis, you have rabid fans who are loyalists to the Peter Gabriel-era and simply HATE the Phil Collins-led band. And vice-versa. And then there are some hair splitters who can only go along with that group until Steve Hackett buggers off and then, you know, forget it.
Me, I always thought they sucked, with Peter Gabriel or without him. There were two weird kids in my junior high school who absolutely loved them, and would insult anyone “not smart enough” to “get” Genesis with withering and dismissive putdowns. These two also spoke to each other in a made-up language only they knew. You know how some people hate the Grateful Dead solely due to their distaste for tie-dye and hacky sacks? Maybe I was unfairly blaming Genesis for their geeky fanboys?
About five years ago I decided to go through the Genesis back catalog to see what I was missing. The one I really LOVE is their self-titled debut album that was recorded while they were still teenagers—apparently they themselves hate it—and I came to quite like the rest of the Peter Gabriel-era stuff. If you tell people who are normally Genesis-haters that Brian Eno is sprinkled liberally throughout The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, they’re usually more inclined to give it a chance. (I know because that ruse worked on me.)
As for the post-Gabriel group, I will admit to having a soft spot for Duke‘s “Turn It On Again.” It’s my jam! I’m playing it now as I type this. My wife must be groaning in the next room, but I can’t see her expression. I even have Duke in a 5.1 surround mix.
I threw the question out to the Dangerous Minds editors: “What’s your favorite Genesis track, but one that’s post-Peter Gabriel?”
Christopher Bickel: I think Abacab is a legit jam. Is there something wrong with me?
Richard Metzger: Why does everyone always use the term “jam” when describing the Phil Collins-led era of Genesis? I do it, too. What’s that all about?
Martin Schneider: I’m very fond of Abacab. I really like a bunch of Phil Collins-era Genesis stuff. I find the Gabriel-era of Genesis a little meander-y. If you listen to Seconds Out you get the best of both worlds, live Phil Collins hammering out a bunch of Gabriel’s best songs.
Ron Kretsch: In before someone posts the Patrick Bateman monologue.
Martin Schneider: The Sum of the Parts documentary on Genesis is very good—one of the things they mentioned that I didn’t really know is that the whole “I’m embarrassed to be a Genesis fan” stank has clung to them from the very first. “Genesis sucks man, and I love ‘em!” Or something.
Tara McGinley: Please take me off this conversation. Thank you.
Christopher Bickel: We’re totally being “those dudes at the party.” In some ways I’d rather listen to Wind and Wuthering than the Gabriel-era stuff because, even though Gabriel was better in every way, the music from that period is darker and less Renn Faire-y. Even some of the tracks from the time of edging into their MTV pop hit days were pretty good. “Mama” is a really creepy and weird song about being obsessed with a prostitute. It’s almost a pop version of Throbbing Gristle!
Ron went with “Man of Our Times” from Duke:
Duke sits very nicely in the sweet spot of post-Gabriel Genesis, avoiding both the overwrought airy-fairyness of Trick of the Tail and the abominable slickness (and that fucking gated-reverb drum sound) that was to come after Phil Collins’ solo success. “Man of Our Times’ hits all the right notes—it’s played as epically bombastic prog, but it’s possessed of pop restraint, competing with “Cul de Sac” as Duke‘s deep cut to beat.
Paul Gallagher chose “Trick of the Tail”:
Genesis were worried how their fans would respond to the band after Peter Gabriel had left. Their response was to knuckle down and start writing songs just to see what would happen.
Of course, there was another problem—a bigger problem: who would replace Gabriel as lead singer. The seemingly ever optimistic Phil Collins thought Genesis should just carry on as a four piece instrumental group—at least this would show they were not just “Pete’s band.” Of course, Genesis were never “Pete’s band”—they were always bigger and better than that. They tried out one singer, but he didn’t work, and so by good fortune as much by necessity Collins found himself singing the songs.
Genesis’ first single post-Pete was “Trick of the Tail.” It was also their first ever music video. Mike Rutherford later told Rolling Stone that he thought the promo was “really crappy.”
“I watch this video and I cringe. It’s just embarrassing. This was pre-MTV and we shot videos for this and ‘Robbery, Assault and Battery’ just to show them on TV. It’s really crappy.”
Written by Tony Banks “Trick of the Tail” is one of the very few pop songs inspired by a book by a Nobel prize-winning novelist—William Golding’s The Inheritors.
Chris Bickel ultimately went with “Abacab” from Abacab:
The title track from the last of the great, dark, “all new-wavey and weird,” post-Gabriel Genesis albums before they went full-blown radio-pop, “Abacab” is driven by an eighth-note pulse-beat groundwork over which an angular guitar barks at a variety of horror-synth sounds. Phil Collins’ vocals are especially aggro, proving the guy did actually have some range—no matter what the Gabrielphiles may have to say about it. Yeah, this is Genesis, but “Abacab” ain’t prog—this is straight-up post-punk. The LP version is superior, as it contains a haunting extended Eno-esque instrumental break not found on the single.
Martin sided with “Dodo/Lurker,” also from Abacab:
When assessing the glories (such as they are) of early-1980s Genesis, a word to keep firmly tucked in your brainpan is drama. How do these three blokes end up sounding so goddamn big? Mainly by twiddling a bunch of poncy knobs? It’s a mystery that cuts deep to the root of Genesis’ ever-widening appeal. Not for nothing was the working title for this ditty “German I & II,” which for a band from England surely evoked the biggest brand of drama you could demand.